For some pet parents, shopping for a new dog bowl can be like stepping into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. 🎶 “Come with me. And you’ll be. In a world of pure imagination!” 🎶 There’s an endless amount of choices—your imagination really is the limit. So, how do you know which dog bowl is best for your dog? Let’s figure it out!
What’s The Best Dog Bowl For Your Dog?
Luckily, when it comes to finding the best dog bowl, there’s an avalanche of safe options for your dog in every color, style, function, and price range you could imagine. The biggest obstacle is making sure you avoid certain dog bowls that may cause possible health and safety risks.
Without making you dig through the entire article, dog bowls you should avoid include bowls made of ceramic, aluminum, plastic, and copper—as well as free-feeding bowls (for most dogs). Other than these, the dog bowl that’s best for your dog simply depends on your and your dog’s needs.
For example, maybe your dog treats their water bowl like a deep diving expedition each time they go for a drink. In that case, a splash-proof or tip-proof bowl is probably the wisest choice to save you from the dreaded wet-sock-syndrome. But you might also want something that looks nice in your kitchen.
The right dog bowl is out there somewhere for you, so we’re here to help you land on the right one. Here’s what you should consider before buying:
- Your dog’s breed, size, and own individual needs for choosing the right style of dog bowl
- Safety and quality for choosing the right material
- Your own needs and preferences (“An orange dog bowl? With that beach-boho decor? You wouldn’t dare!”)
1. What Does Your Dog Need From Their Dog Bowl?
Your pup is the most important factor here. So, before you start shopping for colors or styles that you like best, it’s important to think about what your dog needs, first.
- Breed Size – Depending on your breed’s size, they may prefer bowls closer to the ground, or elevated on a stand. It’s important to keep in mind that elevated bowls may increase the risk of life-threatening Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (a.k.a GDV or canine bloat) and should be avoided for breeds prone to this condition.
- Face And Ears – Dogs with long ears (e.g. bassets and cocker spaniels) may need narrower bowls with taller sides, so their ears don’t fall in, and get soggy. Flat-faced breeds, like pugs, may benefit from wider, more shallow bowls.
- Eating Speed – If your dog tends to inhale their food like a vacuum cleaner, they’ll likely benefit from a slow-feeder bowl.
- Digestion Issues – Some digestion issues (like your dog launching butt-biscuit warfare) are caused by eating too fast, or swallowing air when they engulf their food. Slow-feeder bowls can be helpful with this, too.
- Spilling/Splashing – Dogs who have a habit of playing in their water bowl like they’re Tom Holland performing “Singin’ In The Rain” may need a bowl that’s tip-resistant or splash-resistant.
- Mobility Issues – Some dogs with mobility or joint issues may find it easier to eat out of a raised bowl or tilted bowl.
- Eating Schedule – For pet parents with busy schedules, an electronic automatic dog bowl feeder can make sure your dog gets all their meals on time without over-eating.
- Other Pets – Multi-pet households are all too familiar with pets stealing each other’s food. If you have pets on a specific diet, or don’t want the cats and dogs getting into each other’s food, automatic pet feeders may be a great solution. Some are designed to recognize each pet by their own collar tag.
Once you’ve figured out your dog’s specific needs, you may still be torn on a decision between a few dog bowl styles. To help, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of some of the most popular style dog bowls:
The OG – Regular Dog Bowl
The OG dog bowl. We all know it. It’s your no-frills, no-gimmicks dog bowl made to do nothing more than hold the food your dog wants to stuff in their face.
Best Suited For: Everyday use
Pros: Simple, functional. Wide variety of price ranges, colors, and materials. Suitable for most dogs.
Cons: No additional functionality to make eating more comfortable for certain dogs.
Spill-resistant/tip-resistant dog bowls often have a wider bottom, a rubber rim, or some other mechanism, like magnets, to keep your dog from tipping them over. In contrast, splash-resistant dog bowls have a lip or edge that curve inward to keep those little paws from flinging water and food overboard.
Best Suited For: Those goobers who like to tip their bowls over or play in their food/water, and puppies.
Pros: Prevents food and water spills. Protects your floors (and socks) from spillage.
Cons: Some dogs may not like the curved edges of no-splash dog bowls.
Slow Feeder Dog Bowls
Slow-feeder dog bowls have a raised center bump, ridges, or edges that look like a maze or puzzle. The raised ridges make your dog slow down, and work a bit harder to get to their food. These are perfect for dogs who have a tendency to scarf their food down so fast that they end up choking, vomiting, or having tummy troubles. Eating too fast can often be one of the culprits behind your dog’s cannon-blasting toots. Slow-feeders can also be used to give your pup a little extra mental stimulation.
Best Suited For: Dogs who eat too fast. Mental stimulation. Dogs with digestion issues.
Pros: Helps prevent stomach upset, excessive farts, choking, and vomiting from eating too fast. May help prevent canine bloat. Mentally stimulating.
Cons: Can be annoying to clean thoroughly between ridges. Some dogs refuse to use them. Often made of plastic. Some dogs get frustrated and tip the whole bowl over.
Raised Bowls/Elevated Bowls
Raised/elevated dog food bowls can be great for dogs with certain mobility issues. Older dogs, and dogs with issues like arthritis, might find it easier to eat from an elevated bowl instead of straining to bend over. Some medium breeds may just find them more comfortable to eat out of. And others may have an easier time swallowing from a raised position. However, elevated and raised bowls have been shown to increase the risk of deadly GDV/canine bloat, and should be avoided with dogs prone to this condition.
Best Suited For: Dogs with mobility issues
Pros: Easier for dogs to reach without strain. Often more comfortable. Helps prevent spills.
Cons: Can increase risk of GDV in certain breeds. Can be bulky. Awkward for small breeds.
Floppy-Eared Dog Bowls/Tall Dog Bowls
Some tall dog bowls are designed with narrower openings at the top to help keep your dog’s long, floppy ears from dipping into their bowl and becoming a sopping mess. #floppyearproblems! They’re often called “Cocker Spaniel dog bowls”, but we won’t tell if your basset hound wants to use one too.
Best Suited For: Dogs with long, floppy ears
Pros: Helps keep ears dry
Cons: Some dogs may not like the narrow opening. Fewer options available.
Free-Feeding Dog Bowls
Free-feeding dog bowls keep the good times rollin’ by letting food flow out at all times without having to refill the bowl. Luckily, these bowls are getting harder to find, and for good reason! Most dogs really shouldn’t use a free-feeding dog bowl due to how easily they lead to weight gain and obesity. You might be able to get away with using one if you’ve lucked out with a unicorn of a dog who always stops eating once they’re full. But let’s be honest—although a few of these dogs actually exist, 99% of dogs do not have this much willpower.
Best Suited For: Dogs who self-regulate how much food they eat without gaining too much weight
Pros: Great for lazy pet parents. Have to fill bowls less often. Dog can eat any time they want.
Cons: Bowls tend to get cleaned less often and can build up bacteria. Can lead to weight-gain for dogs who don’t know when to stop eating. Other pets or kids in the household always have access to the food. Food loses freshness more quickly, and may become contaminated.
Electronic Automatic Dog Bowls
Automatic dog bowls have a few pretty cool purposes. These bowls automatically feed your dog on a schedule by releasing a pre-portioned amount of food. These are different from free-feeding bowls as they only release a specific portion of food at a time, while keeping the rest sealed. The pre-set schedules can be incredibly helpful for busy pet parents. Another bonus is that they can help keep your pets out of each other’s food. Some automatic dog bowls use RFID chips attached to your pet’s collar to recognize each individual pet.
Best Suited For: Busy pet parents. Multi-pet households.
Pros: Pre-portions your dog’s meals on a set schedule. Can help prevent other pets from stealing each others’ food. Helps keep kids out of the dog’s food.
Cons: Expensive. Some dogs are afraid of them.
Travel Dog Bowl
Travel dog bowls are perfect when you’re on the go. Whether your pup is joining you for a weekend getaway, a camping trip, or you’re just out for a day adventure, these bowls make it easier for your dog to eat wherever they are. There’s a variety of designs for travel bowls—from collapsible silicone, to foldable fabric, and stackable containers.
Best Suited For: Pups on the go. Vacations. Walks, hiking, and camping.
Pros: Compact, easy to transport. Different designs and materials available.
Cons: Foldable and collapsible bowls can be more difficult to clean properly. Not much known yet about safety of silicone material.
2. What Dog Bowl Material Is Best?
This is an often overlooked aspect to choosing the right dog bowl. Once you narrow down the style of bowl that’s best for your dog, it’s incredibly important to consider the safety and quality of materials being used in your dog’s food and water bowls. Certain materials, coatings, glazing, and low-quality bowls pose health risks to your dog. You should also be careful to choose dog bowls from reputable companies with high safety standards. Remember, if it’s cheap, you’re probably getting cheap low-quality materials.
Best Materials For Dog Bowls
- Stainless Steel – Stainless steel is, by far, the safest choice of material for your dog’s bowls. It’s non-porous—meaning it’s less likely to harvest bacteria. They’re the easiest to clean, and often dishwasher safe. They’re also extremely durable, basically unbreakable, lightweight, and affordable. However, make sure you’re buying a stainless steel bowl from a reputable brand, and you know where it’s being manufactured. There have been past recalls of stainless steel bowls due to low levels of radiation from recycled low-quality materials. This is more common from unfamiliar brands manufactured overseas.
- Insulated Stainless Steel – Insulated stainless steel bowls have really gained popularity in the last few years. They have all the same benefits as a regular stainless steel bowl, but they look a bit nicer, and don’t develop condensation. They’re supposed to keep your dog’s water a bit chillier for longer, but considering the wide-open top, this isn’t much of a factor. They do, however, bump up in price.
Fairly Safe Materials For Dog Bowls
- Glass – Glass is non-porous, and easy-to-clean, so it won’t become a health hazard due to bacteria. However, it’s extremely fragile. And let’s face it—dogs can be clumsy. If your dog’s glass bowl cracks or breaks, they could end up with serious cuts.
- Silicone – Silicone dog bowls have really just sprouted up in the last few years—mostly as flexible and collapsible travel bowls. As of right now, silicone bowls are considered a safe, easy-to-clean and durable choice. However, because health risks of new products and materials often aren’t discovered until later, we’re listing this one in the “fairly safe” list until we know more.
- Fabric (for travel) – Collapsible fabric dog bowls are another new trend hitting the market. And again, we don’t know too much about any possible risks from eating out of a fabric container. However, most fabrics are either going to be porous and more easily harvest bacteria, or they’re going to be coated in a questionable chemical to prevent them from being so porous. This type of bowl would also need to be thoroughly washed on a consistent basis to get food, dirt, and bacteria out of all the folds. For travel bowls, it’s probably best to stick to silicone for now, or stackable stainless steel.
- Bamboo – As long as you’re being careful to choose a bamboo bowl that hasn’t been coated with a toxic protective layer, they can be a fairly safe choice. Bamboo won’t leech harmful chemicals into your dogs food or water, plus, it’s a sustainable choice for the environment. Bamboo is also harder and less porous than many plastics. Just make sure you still wash it thoroughly and frequently.
Worst Materials For Dog Bowls
- Plastic – Surprise! Plastic is actually a terrible choice for dog bowls. Not only do many plastics contain harmful chemicals (most commonly BPA) that can slowly leech into your dog’s food and water, but plastic is easily scratched. Each tiny scratch and groove creates a perfect nook for food and bacteria to get trapped. This can lead to issues from skin irritation to severe digestion issues or illness. Plus, many aren’t dishwasher safe, which makes them even harder to clean properly.
- Ceramic – Ceramic should also be a no-go. Although it’s not quite as bad as plastic, some ceramic bowl manufacturers coat their bowls with a lead glaze, which can lead to heavy-metal poisoning. Even safely-glazed bowls become a health hazard once the glaze chips or cracks. This gives bacteria a spot of entry into the very porous ceramic underneath. And considering how fragile they are, ceramic bowls are quite easy to chip and crack.
- Aluminum – Luckily, this isn’t a common dog bowl material—for good reason. Aluminum leeches into water and causes health issues. Never use an aluminum dog bowl.
- Copper – Some copper dog bowl companies claim their bowls prevent bacteria buildup from that slimy film in your dog’s water. The bad news is that copper can leech into food and water causing an array of health issues. Do not use copper or copper-coated dog bowls.
3. What Do You Need From Your Dog’s Bowl?
Let’s face it, no one wants to look at ugly dog bowls! Your needs and preferences matter, too. Before making your final decision, answer a few questions that may matter to you:
- Is it dishwasher safe? (Especially important if you feed your dog a raw diet!)
- Does the color match your decor?
- Does it fit where you plan to keep it? (This can help you determine size, shape, and if you need a placemat to protect flooring.)
- How much do you want to spend?
- How long do you need it to last?
- Does it need to be lightweight to move from room to room, or to travel?
- Do you need something that can stand up to a lot of wear and tear? (Important if you’ve got a rough-playing dog, or if you have children in the house.)
- Does it need a mechanism to keep other pets or children from accessing it?